What To Do When You Get Tapped By A Lower Rank

What To Do When You Get Tapped By A Lower Rank

First of all, do not do any of the following:

  • tell the person who just tapped you that you’re injured.
  • explain that you weren’t going 100%.
  • roll again and start coaching them to let them know that you weren’t going 100% the whole time.
  • curse, yell, or angrily tell them “let’s go again!”

No matter who you are, almost without exception, you are going to get tapped by lower rank partners.  Relson Gracie has said “My purple belts don’t get tapped by my blues, and my browns don’t get tapped by my purples.”  For the most part that is true, but it does happen.

When you get tapped by a lower rank, you can first remind yourself that you are not a jiu-jitsu god.  It is very common that as students raise their rank, so does their sense of self importance.  So in this way getting tapped is a wonderful reality check and practice in humility.

There is always a lesson to be learned from getting tapped.  Several years ago, one of my friends and training partners Eric Smith tapped me.  I believe I was already a black belt, and he was brown.  After the training, I was thinking about what happened.  He had side control top, and had an underhook on my far arm.  I remember thinking, “This is no big deal.”  He flattened me out so I was flat on my back, and I thought “I teach my students all the time not to let this happen, but I’ll be fine.”  He secured an americana, and I thought, “I can get out of this.”  My shoulder started to get tight and I tapped.

What I realized from reviewing my thoughts as I got into more and more trouble was that I was being arrogant.  I thought I was so good that I could continue to ignore the principles of jiu-jitsu and get deeper and deeper into trouble and still get out.  My arrogance lead to my laziness which lead me to get tapped with one of the first techniques that every jiu-jitsu student learns, the americana.

That is one of the benefits of having great training partners like Eric Smith.  When you make a mistake, he will take advantage of it because his jiu-jitsu is very good.

Every situation where you get tapped may teach you a different lesson.  Mine that day was arrogance.  It could be a lack of awareness, lack of sensitivity, lack of patience, bad timing, lack of knowledge of a certain submission or position escape…  the only way you are going to know what the cause is is to contemplate the situation.

The first thing I mentioned is what not to do when you get tapped.  One of the reasons to not to do this is to not try to steal someone else’s happiness.  If a lower rank who never taps you finally catches you, they are going to be really happy.  They’re going to know that their jiu-jitsu is improving.  If you try to tarnish someone else’s accomplishment because of your delusion of grandeur, you have done something really selfish and wrong.

In personal development there is a commonly told analogy of people acting like crabs.  I have heard it several times that you can put a palette of crabs on the beach right next to the shore with no lid to stop them from getting out and none will escape.  As one starts to climb out, others will pull them down.

Years ago I had a student that came to me and said “I have to admit something…  I don’t want to roll anymore.  I haven’t been tapped in a while and now I’m afraid to roll because I don’t want to get tapped.”  He no longer enjoyed training because he was obsessed with not losing.

If you think that your technique is perfect, your timing is impeccable, and you have nowhere to improve, you have lost touch with reality and your motivation is ego gratification, nothing more.  It is control others, not to improve yourself.

The great thing and the difficult thing about jiu-jitsu is we can’t become complacent.  It is very common in other martial arts that once a student gets comfortable at or beyond black belt, they stop growing.  They may still do kata or forms (prearranged sequences of moves done without a partner).  They may do bag work or even breaking, but they don’t spar anymore.  Or maybe they spar with people they know they can beat.

In jiu-jitsu when you tap, it is final.  It is recognition that your joint was going to be damaged or you were going to pass out.  You can’t rationalize as you can in doing striking sparring that is not full contact: “They landed a round kick, but that probably wouldn’t have stopped me.”

Next time you get tapped by a lower rank, some better options for reacting to your partner are “Thank you,” and “Good job.”  You’ll be setting a great example for your partner and it will make it a lot easier to get clarity about how you can improve as a jiu-jitsu practitioner and as a person.



2 Responses to “What To Do When You Get Tapped By A Lower Rank”

  1. This is a great article. It opened my eyes! Thanks 😉

  2. Nelson Mercado says:

    Great article! Everyone should read this article as it in one shape or form relates to most bjjpractitioners

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